Wednesday, 26 November 2014

double breasted knit coat

I have had one certain project from my first book, Easy Baby Knits, safely stored away in a drawer for ever such a long time, awaiting the longed for day when it would fit one of my own children. That day came this week, when I tried it on my littlun for size. Such an amazing feeling, it was a perfect fit! And just in time for the change in weather.
I love this project as the woven style stitch is a beautiful texture, the shape is very cute and boxy, it has just the right touch of vintage styling and the yarn - Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran - drapes wonderfully while providing a cosy warmth.
As for my daughter, I think she liked it, even though she was doing some faux sulking in these pictures (hence the 'pout') as she didn't want me to take her picture, so they aren't the best shots, but they do capture my own bright moment on an otherwise dull day.

Friday, 24 October 2014

new issue: inside crochet 59

Issue 59 of Inside Crochet dropped onto my doormat this morning and it is looking gorgeous, even if the thought of Christmas is making me a little nervous...! 
There are some beautiful patterns inside this month, so make sure you grab a copy. I especially love the pictures of the beaded collar by Jo Bodley, which we shot in front of an amazing old headboard to get that pretty backdrop. And the pattern I must start hooking right now is Sarah Reed's adorable mini stocking bunting. I am going to make mine into an advent calendar for the littlun and put in notes and treats for each day leading up to Christmas. Most will probably be filled with activities for the day like "making mince pies", "put up the tree!" or "time to feed the Christmas cake!" I love the idea of creating an heirloom decoration that she will always remember as central to those comforting family festivities and not bound only by chocolate or Christmas excesses. Must go find some yarn...
Images all by the lovely Britt Spring.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

popcorn flower blanket

This blanket was returned to me in the post from DK books recently and I am really rather pleased, as it is lovely! Littlun agrees and has taken to hiding under it, snuggling under it and wrapping it round her while she pretends to be a rather colourful ghost!
It was originally published in Crochet, from DK books, a bible I commissioned for, consulted on and contributed to. It is rather fabulous, as I have highlighted here, so if you are looking for a how to crochet guide, do check it out. (And yes, that is it on the cover!!)

This image is by the wonderful Britt Spring, who is leaving the UK to return to her native Australia later this month, and I will miss our monthly photoshoots immensely. More about that soon...

Monday, 25 August 2014

crochet colourwork hat

 The latest issue of Inside Crochet came out on Friday, which has a very autumnal theme and so the weather has been quite appropriate for some of the projects inside it. I am rather proud of the lovely little hat I designed for it. I wanted to recreate some of the beautiful scalloped colourwork patterns I have been noticing in knitwear recently, but without the faffing of doing any Fair Isle or Tapestry crochet, so I utilised the scallop stitch, comprising of shells, with some block stripes of colour to create the pattern. Here's the result!

All images by the talented Britt Spring Photography

Thursday, 17 April 2014

tapestry crochet blanket

I have just received my early copies of the latest issue of Inside Crochet and had to share the blanket I have designed inside. I have been meaning to master tapestry crochet - the art of colourwork patterning within crochet - for a while and have been toying with the idea of a geometric triangle pattern. Triangles are everywhere in homewares at the moment and I thought it would be perfect in a blanket for my littlun. So here it is! 
Using Sublime Merino DK, which is beautiful and comes in an array of gorgeous colours, this is my new favourite project, it was a joy to make and snuggly to use - I have to say I have used it more than the littlun! If you haven't had a go at tapestry crochet before, do not fear, the Polygon Blanket is published alongside a straightforward how to guide. If you aren't a subscriber, the issue is on sale in all good newsagents and supermarkets from the 23rd April.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Gawthorpe Textiles Collection

In my last post about the exciting project for Gawthorpe Hall Textiles Collection, I realised that I didn't show a picture of the beautiful scrap books I was inspired by. Here are just a few examples, mainly of the ones labelled 'poor quality' by Miss Rachel, along with the actual fragment which was the initial inspiration. I have so many of pictures of these - a wealth of inspiration for years to come! Thinking about the people who made them and used the the books to create new pieces so many years ago and the fact that these few tiny scraps of material have survived, thought worthy of recording by the foresight of Rachel Kay Shuttleworth, is just amazing, inspiring, humbling.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

The Gawthorpe Collection

I am really late in letting you all know about this, but one of the most exciting things I did last year was take an inspirational visit to Gawthorpe Hall's amazing textiles collection. I was asked to contribute a pattern to the collection as part of the "Miss Rachel's Crafthouse Patterns" brand, which would become part of the permanent collection and help to raise money through pattern sales for the collection's upkeep - how exciting can you get? Well, it gets better, as I was in illustrious company, the other designers were Debbie Bliss, Kate Davies, Jane Ellison and Emma Varnam and I got to spend a day in their company looking at the most beautiful old textiles. 

I cannot emphasise enough how inspirational a trip to this collection is, if you get the chance, grab it - the house is wonderful, the collection extensive and interesting and the story behind the collector, Rachel Kay Shuttleworth, is both inspiring and fascinating.
My pattern was a capelet inspired by some crochet fragments labelled as ‘poor designs’, by Shuttleworth which reinforced my attractive for them further, especially as they are really very intricate compared to many modern designs. These scraps were from scrapbooks used instead of pattern ‘recipe’ books by whole villages. I liked the idea that I would be using one of the first crochet stitch compilation books to create my design! I could easily have chosen any one of many fragments as a starting point (and will no doubt use some others in future designs) but I settled on a stitch with very noticeable and striking ribs and geometric lace using what looked like a crocheted ‘X’ stitch, which seemed to suggest a shape and structure from their strong lines.
Taking this as a starting point, I thought that the ribs would lend themselves perfectly to a cape or shawl worked in short rows from side to side, rather than working the piece bottom to top, to utilise the structure of the stitch.
I wanted to crochet with a very special yarn with a luxury feel and beautiful drape and handle, as a capelet speaks to me of special occasion-wear. The vintage feel to the garment also seemed relevant to the time in which the original, inspirational fragment was made. I finished off the sample with some lace ribbon from my own collection of vintage haberdashery and textiles, which I felt finished the whole circle of the Gawthorpe experience extremely neatly.

All the other patterns are so amazing, I still cannot believe that mine is amongst them, go take a look at the others - I must make Kate Davies stunning beret, I love her post about it here.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Crochet; the complete step by step guide

This month, a new crochet book for beginners was released by Dorling Kindersley which I had the pleasure of consulting on and commissioning for this time last year. It was all well worth the effort as DK have come up trumps with the design and quality of this fabulous book. There are over 80 great projects, here are some of mine - one of my projects even features on the rather striking cover, I am so chuffed!

If you are here before the 9th March 2014 get over to the Inside Crochet website to win yourself a copy! 

'Woven' lap blanket by Claire Montgomerie

Ruffle scarf by Claire Montgomerie

Rainbow blanket by Claire Montgomerie

Raglan Sweater by Vicki Brown - simply adorable!
Stool Cover by Tracey Todhunter - beautiful colours

Rag Doll by Liz Ward, Littlun want one of these!

Friday, 21 February 2014

Cardboard City

This week, I have been helping out at the Imagine children's festival at the Royal Festival Hall, Southbank. The guys from Land of Kids have put on a pirate school and a cardboard kingdom workshop and a couple of days this week I was part of the team overseeing the children who are making the cardboard architecture in their half term. 
It all started with a stunning red routemaster, the creative genius Sarah Waites of The Bungaloo, who has been running the workshops, and has grown since there into a beautiful, imaginative, inspiring installation which all the children seem to love being part of. 
They like looking at it and spotting familiar landmarks like the London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Wembley, London Zoo, even Willy Wonka's chocolate factory! I think it is fab that lots of children have included their own homes. They also love playing with the cardboard pieces, especially the vehicles and boats on the Thames, which I realised after resurfacing the napkin road what seemed like hundreds of times while continually rescuing sinking ships!
If you have children, get down to the Southbank this weekend and add to the city, become a pirate, colour in the walls, see shows and hear stories, all completely free! Here are some pictures from the cardboard kingdom - wish I could have taken pictures of everything.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Pauline Turner

An exciting place I went last year was Morecambe, for Pauline Turner's 30 year celebration of her International Diploma in Crochet. I had wanted to go to visit the beautiful Midland hotel for a long time, so the chance of mixing business with pleasure was too good to miss. 

Lunch at the Midland Hotel

Neither the Midland, nor Pauline and her students disappointed. The weekend I spent in Morecambe was fabulous, even down to the wonderfully changeable and dramatic weather and views across the bay - we got double rainbows, bright sunshine and dark, foreboding rain clouds, all of which were spectacular when looking out across the sea. 

Pauline herself turned out to be the most wonderful, intriguing, interesting woman, who's life and career have spanned a multitude of different paths, leading eventually to developing the crochet diploma, which has students across the world. I hope that after 30 years or more in the business, I am as knowledgable about crochet as Pauline, what she doesn't know about it would fit on a pin head - and she has even aided in the creation of new crochet disciplines in the past - scrumbling or freeform crochet being one of them. Pauline wore a few of her more spectacular crochet and knit creations throughout the weekend and displayed even more, including her own wedding dress. This woman is prolific, and her talents as a teacher and crocheter shine through her students work. I had the honour of helping Pauline and Helen Jordan of Thread of Life judge the final entries to the competitions that Pauline had set up for the celebrations. The students work was absolutely amazing, from fine thread christening gowns to gorgeous chunky cables and freeform, the variety and skill was amazing to see. 
There was students work representing many diverse parts of the world, including as far afield as South Africa and New Zealand. There was a student who had used bent roofing nails to hook their samples as their part of the world does not have the access to hooks and yarns that we take for granted. It really was an education through craft for me and a fabulous celebration of how crochet can bring diverse communities together.
There was one student, called Unagh Macullough, who had completed the whole diploma and was graduating at the event. Her work was so varied and beautiful. She is obviously a very methodical crafter, who makes the most beautiful beaded jewellery as well as fine crochet lacework, but her final projects were gorgeous freeform pieces, which seemed to demonstrate how the diploma explores and introduces techniques and that are new and exciting and often bringing out an unexpected side to the work. 
If you are looking to improve your crochet skills, or want to learn how to begin designing your own work or exploring new techniques, definitely go check out Pauline's course - it is a unique and exciting challenge for any crocheter, and I have even considered taking the higher levels myself to make sure I am up to scratch!

Samples of Unagh Macullough's work.

Sample of the range of threads available from The Thread of Life.

A tiny part of Pauline's vast crochet library.

Thursday, 23 January 2014


To elaborate a little on the last post, last year I was very honoured and extremely excited to be asked to judge two separate awards. The first was the UKHKA Knitted Textiles Awards 2013. The Knitted Textiles Awards are always my favourite place to head at the Stitch and Knit show, so as you can imagine I was totally chuffed (and more than a little nervous) to be asked to be a judge. The standards were really high and I wished that everyone could have won something, so it was actually much harder than I imagined. I thought that the graduate winner, Judith Watson, was fabulous. Her mixed media pieces were incredibly original and interesting, concentrating on Aran fabric and traditional rug techniques, as well as some Swiss darning, which was one of my favourite techniques on my own degree.

Another of the winners was Katie Jones, a designer whose work I greatly admire. I love her aesthetic and her commitment to the handwork in the craft she employs. Her K2TOG line is a way in which she gets round the perennial problem we knitted textiles designers share - how to make our highly skilled and time consuming work affordable - while also adhering to a low waste policy. She upcycles old knitwear and produces beautifully unique pieces in her own inimitable style. Luckily for Inside Crochet, we have an exclusive jacket design of Katie's appearing in the 50th issue, pictured above, out at the end of the month. 
It was also a great show generally - especially as I managed to escape relatively unscathed purchase-wise (apart from my usual fabric splurge at The Eternal Maker). I loved the TOFT stand, Kerry has produced a fab menagerie of crocheted toys which are simply adorable (top). The whole range is available here, or you can buy kits to make individual animals from their gorgeous yarns.

Picture of Katie Jones' Couture Jacket from Inside Crochet by Britt Spring

Monday, 20 January 2014

2013 in review

So far this year, I have had quite a few conversations about when it is best to stop saying "Happy New Year!" In a way, it feels quite clumsy to carry on saying it to everyone you see for the first time this year. However, on the final class of my beginners crochet course last week at City Lit one of my lovely students told me a lovely story, with the moral being that you should always say it to anyone you haven't seen, even if it is in August! 
So now I feel confident instead of awkward saying it and, with that in mind, I am going to start the year off right, if late, with a "Happy New Year" to you all and a little review of last year, especially because the last part was so eventful in both exciting and worrying ways - hence my lack of posting about it. The City Lit class on Friday was a catch up session as I had to cancel the actual class at the end of last year due to ill health. I am hopefully finally on top of it and having a medical action plan for at least the next year or so is making me take stock, look after myself and my family and to celebrate some of the wonderful things I have done and have planned. Hopefully without stressing too much over them! So this is a sort of montage of what I got up to last year - some parts will be elaborated upon as I hoped to do originally over the next few posts.

BOTTOM PICS, from left to right, top to bottom: shot from The Knitting Collection, taken by Britt Spring; view from Gawthorpe Hall on a trip to the textiles collection; shot from Inside Crochet taken by Britt Spring; drawing at the anorak summer fair; shot from Inside Crochet taken by Britt Spring; at DK books; the beautiful Midland hotel, morecambe; at shoot location; The Knitting Collection; photoshoot coffee break; Pauline Turner's library; Home London; drawing at babyccino shopup; Eric; at shoot location; student's work at Pauline Turner's anniversary celebrations; my Jess headband from The Knitting Collection, taken by Britt Spring; Toft at the Stitch and Knit show; my throw on the cover of Crochet, which I consulted on, contributed to and commissioned for; shot from The Knitting Collection, taken by Britt Spring; swatch for the Gawthorpe collection project; teaching how to crochet at City Lit; judging the textiles prize at the Stitch and Knit show; photoshoot action shot. TOP PICS: fragment from the amazing Gawthorpe textiles collection; party bags, Alice in wonderland party; beautiful double rainbow while judging student's work at Pauline Turner's house; my beginner students' grannies.